Atlanta Hawks: The Horford effect

Boston–I mentioned in the Game 5 postgame blog that it had been so long since Al Horford played center for the Hawks it was kind of astonishing to see the difference. I’m sure the Celtics must feel the same.

Fired up the Synergy Sports Technology machine to look at Atlanta’s offensive possessions in Game 5. There was, as expected, lots of visual evidence that the threat of Horford (and Horford himself) helped lead to some good scoring opportunities for the Hawks:

  • There were four possessions used in which Horford was the roll man. He missed two open pick-and-pop Js in the second quarter and later twice scored rolling to the basket.
  • There was one screen-roll in which Horford’s presence led to two free-throw attempts for Marvin Williams. Marvin turned the corner off Horford’s pick and Greg Stiemsma was late coming over to challenge Marvin because he couldn’t leave Horford.
  • There were 11 good spot-up attempts in which the defense was influenced by Horford’s presence. Five were by Horford himself, with three of those good looks coming after Kevin Garnett left Al to freelance (habit, I guess). Josh Smith got three good spot-up chances after his man pinched in to help from the weakside on Al’s roll to the basket. Marvin made three 3-pointers off that same action.
  • Al dunked on a cut to the basket on a familiar Hawks play: After Joe Johnson rubbed Ray Allen off off a pin-down screen, Brandon Bass took a step out to deny Johnson coming off the screen and Al quickly slipped to the basket to take a nice pass from Josh.

Before Al returned to this series, the Hawks didn’t have a center the Celtics had to worry much about on the roll, on the pop or in the post. Now there is one center they have to worry about for all of those play types. As Jeff Teague put it after Game 5: “He’s a real athletic guy, athletic roller. And his presence to be able to pick-and-pop and he can switch it up and roll, that’s big.”

Horford played 41 minutes and the Hawks had by far their most efficient scoring game of the series. Among the starters, Horford’s 0.9 points per possession were third to Marvin (1.25) and Teague. (1.0). Al’s four turnovers were the only blemish on his line.

Now we’ll see how effective Al can be in Game 6 after playing so many minutes in just his second game back. Can he go 40 minutes again?

“I do not know,” Horford said today before shootaround. “That might be a little bit of a stretch. I’ll come out and give a productive run but those guys [the backups] need to be ready.”

But Hoford latter added that if the circumstances dictate it “then I may have to go 40. There is no plan.”

My guess is the Hawks will need him to do it again.

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

129 comments Add your comment

Grandad

May 10th, 2012
2:21 pm

Could it be ?

Grandad

May 10th, 2012
2:26 pm

Mary Ellen … *[from the last blog]*

I thought Mr gearon was complimenting `’Damp`’ ::

When he said::

Damp looked like ‘`Grandad`’

Admirable SnAckBar

May 10th, 2012
2:36 pm

Buddy Grizzard

May 10th, 2012
2:36 pm

If Green, Pargo and Collins play with the game undecided, the Hawks will lose.

Brian215

May 10th, 2012
2:37 pm

Um yeah, problem solved. Convincing 1pt win, at home, in a must win, Celtics not getting a last shot off. Celtics by 20+ tonight. Then this type of wishful journalism can go beddy bye.

msc

May 10th, 2012
2:38 pm

have a good feeling about tonights game the hawks have so many options with joe horford smith teague and even marvin. If they double joe one of them will be open marvin will have to be productive tonight. It’s our time to win in Boston for once.

I say play kirk over willie as well.

Astro Joe

May 10th, 2012
2:39 pm

Grandad, that’s pretty funny.

Hawks can’t win this series without a game where the bench produces 20+ points. Sorry, I just don’t have that much confidence in our starters to deliver 4 wins by themselves. At some point Willie, Marvin, TMac and Pargo will need to come together and give the team a good 20+ points in around 12-15 minutes of quality play. I’m hopeful that happens tonight.

Slimjr

May 10th, 2012
2:40 pm

Celts in trouble?

Paul Pierce with a bum knee[sprained MCL]?

Have the Hawks caught a break? Stay tuned…

BTW, you need two good legs to shoot made jumpers…

beantown brawler

May 10th, 2012
2:41 pm

atlanta is a joke of an organization

Tony

May 10th, 2012
2:41 pm

Go Hawks!

You can do it!

vino

May 10th, 2012
2:41 pm

For all yall that wants to trade horford over josh remember it took josh 8 seasons for it to kinda click, only took horford his rookie season???????

I love josh but its not happening in atlanta along with marvin….

Brime Lee

May 10th, 2012
2:41 pm

I hope Game 4 disaster was necessarily a needed one for Al to take care of his rust.

I wish LD rotates guys smart rest of the series and then I think we still have a strong chance to come back and win this series.

We all know adversities and negatives about this team but..
We still want this team win, GO HAWKS!

northcyde

May 10th, 2012
2:46 pm

It wasn’t just the offensive effect, but the defensive one as well. The fact that we add another big time rebounder to this squad in the form of Horford, can’t be overlooked either. Horford’s man defense in the post may be a little less than Collins, but everything thing else he does is literally 5x better than what Collins does.

And now, we have a guy who can effectively defend the pick and roll, even stepping out to defend the ball handler if need be. It’s a potential series changer, and I think the Celtics know this.

DawgNole

May 10th, 2012
2:47 pm

Slimjr
May 10th, 2012
1:31 pm

So Paul Pierce has a sprained MCL!!!! Thats huge!!!

Karma? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

He’s only got one good leg.His body wont allow him to score 25-35 points…Joe and Marvin will have much easier time guarding him..

That opens the flood gates for the Hawks…

What a HUGE BREAK for the Hawks! Git’er done people!
__________________

You better hope he’s incapacitated, because the guy’s a proven, cold-blooded killer in crunch time. Abrasive, obnoxious, arrogant? Hell yeah–but a cold-blooded killer nonetheless.

tom

May 10th, 2012
3:11 pm

the most important influence AL can have IMO is to get the guys to remain mentally tough. we could witness the emergence of the leader the hawks desperately need.

Hawks Blog Legend Worldwide Clyde

May 10th, 2012
3:17 pm

I like Horford but he isn’t the savior of this team. Game one was our best victory in the series.

BIG IVAN FOR PRESIDENT

glw

May 10th, 2012
3:17 pm

I hope the Hawks can pull it out tonight. But I worry about Drew and his ability to make adjustments.

If Pierce is really banged up, the Hawks have to exploit that, make him work on both ends of the floor. I am almost sure he will be on Marvin. Marvin really needs to find a way to be a factor and if he isnt, use TMac.

I think Horford will be a bit tired and not sure you can expect as strong a game from him so soon after his return from injury. LD really should pick his spot. Limit Horford minutes in the 1st half to around 15 minutes at least. Joe and Teague will need to play in the 42-44 minutes. Only 3 guys should play off the bench…..TMac, Kirk, and Dampier.

KevinM

May 10th, 2012
3:20 pm

So will TNT go on the line that the Celtics could lose because of their injuries and the Hawks could lose because they’re the Hawks?

I hear that coming already. Shaq, Kenny, nor Charles see anything they like about this game or team….it will be Rondo this, Pierce that.

Do I want the Hawks to win? Yes. Do I want to remain intact next year?
No. Simple approach to moving this franchise forward. Rid yourself of those holding you to that #4/5 seed year after year.

Sautee

May 10th, 2012
3:21 pm

“I like Horford but he isn’t the savior of this team” – Worldwide Clyde

BIG Co-sign, Clyde. I was just about to post something similar.

We win as a team, or not at all. I’m delighted to have Horford back, but who knows what he’ll give us tonight? And I’m still not over last year’s playoffs when he was mostly abysmal.

Section 303

May 10th, 2012
3:26 pm

I have to apologize…..I really think the Hawks can win tonight. Everytime I think the Hawks will win, however, they don’t. Just like everytime I think they will lose, they win. So….it’s still not stopping me from getting my hopes up.

I have to agree with Michael, Al and the other starters will have to log big minutes tonight. In my opinion, the bench play has been the most disappointing part of this series. The Hawks bench has been a plus all year. They have actually won several games this season. They’ve done nothing this series. Green, Pargo, T-Mac, Ivan….nearly complete nonfactors. Almost seems as if the moment is just too big for those guys.

Not many times in life that you get a chance to make things right. Hawks have a chance to do so tonight. There will be no more dismissing this team if they go into Boston and win Game 6. Will make them impossible to ignore.

KevinM

May 10th, 2012
3:26 pm

glw….”Only 3 guys should play off the bench…..TMac, Kirk, and Dampier.

I like that rotation and we shouldn’t have to go any deeper.

Make the Celtics play their Big 3/4 all the way and apply the pressure to them…those poor old hurt Celtics that are hanging on and making it tough on us….

BobbyD

May 10th, 2012
3:31 pm

Everyone saying that Horford is not the savior may be right. However, only a fool doesn’t notice how much he helps this team on both sides of the floor. Savior? Not sure. Huge piece? Without a doubt

MsDee

May 10th, 2012
3:33 pm

@Sautee,

“And I’m still not over last year’s playoffs when he was mostly abysmal.”

Based on that statement alone is one reason why AL could be that game changer. AL is FRESH, RESTED, PUMPED, AND READY TO CONTRIBUTE AND WIN WIN WIN! No need to base anything on last years’ AL, cause last years’ AL, other coaches were able to guard him on his shots since he had the highest shooting percentage in the PF/C. But this years’ AL, coaches make have forgotten what this guy can offer and im just happy he can share those gifts with us!! :)

northcyde

May 10th, 2012
3:37 pm

One of the things Drew has to consider, if he wants to get Smith and Horford rest, is mix Ivan into this rotation. He’s had a bad offensive series, but he does give us a guy who could defend and rebound.

I still disagree with Drew taking the starters out in chunks, replacing them with 4 bench players. Drew can do exactly what Doc does with KG. At the 6 minute mark, Garnett is ALWAYS going to come out of that game, substituted by Stiemsma. This is when I’d take either Smith or Horford out, and insert Ivan.

When Doc does this, KG is only out of the game until the next TV timeout ( around the 3 minute mark ). At that point, put Smith or Horford back in the game, and rest the other guy until the end of the quarter.

Then as the 2nd quarter starts, you’ll have the option of either keeping Ivan in the game, or go back to your starting frontline.

And at no point should 4 bench players be in this game at the same time. And no two of Teague, JJ, Smith, or Horford should be out of this game at ANY point.

Hawks Blog Legend Worldwide Clyde

May 10th, 2012
3:37 pm

Bobby D how much did Horford help us in game 6 at home against Chicago last year?

drmaryb.(*_*).

May 10th, 2012
3:39 pm

Grand – Daddy!

Haha … yes baby, that was a compliment. Damp does look like Grandad. LOL

And, yes it could be? You are 1st. LOL

Swingman912

May 10th, 2012
3:41 pm

Horfords play alone isn’t what got us the win. He played great, but his vocal leadership is what created a difference. Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny were right about 1 thing. Everyone else on the team is too damn cool. Smoove whines at EVERY call, though he does get fouled a lot without it being called, Teague is too passive, though he is getting better. JJ doesn’t have ANY fire whatsoever, though he ” could care less” what I think. Al hustles every play, doesn’t walk up the court on a bad call, and doesn’t quit when we’re down. That’s what can win us games, cuz he’s the only one who does that. Not to mention we now have a legit offensive threat at the 5…..Hawks win by 5 & force game 7…….CHUUUUCCHH

drmaryb.(*_*).

May 10th, 2012
3:42 pm

NortyCyde, I love your game plan there. Too bad you’re not our coach.

Man in Black

May 10th, 2012
3:43 pm

This Hawks team if it was healthy from the start would have swept Boston – with Zaza & Horford healthy they would have pummeled Garnett. This is a great team when healthy – they would be all world if they got Dwight in free agency without giving anything up.

drmaryb.(*_*).

May 10th, 2012
3:45 pm

Hawks 92 – 87

Jay Dubu

May 10th, 2012
3:45 pm

The Hawks have to come out, and run the Celtics out of the gym tonight. If the Hawks can get past the Celtics, they’ll make the Easter Conference Finals.

Beantown

May 10th, 2012
3:54 pm

Pierce is fine, anybody who’s watched this team in past playoffs knows how much better he is at home. We toy with teams at home, sure winning game 5 would’ve been great, but face it, the Hawks don’t have the intestinal fortitude to win a big road game………..Pierce on the other hand, won one by himself.

Sautee

May 10th, 2012
3:56 pm

MsDee,

I think you have a good point, but I’m certain that Doc Rivers and his staff have been looking to see how Orlando and Chicago defended Horford last year. They may have overlooked Horford for game 5, but they won’t tonight.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Horford’s game. But after last year, he’d got a lot to prove, and IMO didn’t prove that all was forgotten/ forgiven in just one good game. I’m afraid that too many are putting Al in a “savior” role, and that’s not who he is.

That said, it’s great to have an active big who rotates correctly (and timely) and rebounds well. I’m thrilled he’s back, but my expectations of him “leading” us to victory are greatly tempered by his past.

What I would DEARLY love is for Al to drive past Garnett if he comes out to challenge the outside shot. Al has the ability to do that, but rarely uses it. We’ll see in a few hours.

Swingman912

May 10th, 2012
3:56 pm

Clyde,
Horford will struggle against true Centers, like he did against Noah last year. Garnett is not a true C, so as long as Al sticks to the pick and pop, picks his spots to roll wisely, and doesn’t go with those robot like post moves he tried on Noah last year, he should do well

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Dept. Of Unintended Irony

May 10th, 2012
3:59 pm

“If the Hawks can get past the Celtics, they’ll make the Easter Conference Finals.”

Would they hire Rev to coach?

Ray

May 10th, 2012
3:59 pm

So how long until I hear we like our core??????

Celtics 115 Hawks 92

glw

May 10th, 2012
4:02 pm

northcyde,

I agree with you there about not playing the whole bench at the same time. I think knowing his job might be on the line, he will ride the starters, but hope not too much. He has to play the starters most of the night if possible. I say only use 3, but if I use a 4th, it would be Ivan for a couple of minute stretch in the 1st or 2nd quarter. LIke you said, Garnett comes out at the 6 minute mark.

Some other tendencies that LD hopefully realizes when he comes up with his substitutions tonight:

1.TMac plays best with the 1st unit, particularly Joe. I would give him an early look for Marvin, unless Marvin is hot (lol)

2. Dampier should be used when Garnett is in the game, he is a wide body and Garnett cant really root him out of the lane. Also Dampier would work good with Joe and TMac on pick and roll. That pick he set on Pietrus the other night was devastating, though he was called for an offensive foul, I loved it.

3. Joe needs to play as much as possible, probably only substituting him at the end of quarters and for a couple of possessions at the beginning of 2nd and 4th quarters. Let Marvin and TMac check Pierce, we need all the offense we can get tonight from Joe.

4. When substituting for Josh, Ivan wouldnt be all a bad idea. But please use Ivan at the 4 only when Horford is at the 5. Ivan main focus should be rebouding and tough defense.

5. Kirk should subsitute for Teague at Pg and Joe at the 2, please no Willie Green or Janerro Pargo. Kirk might be good to use when Ray Allen is in the game, so Joe doesnt have to chase him.

DZ

May 10th, 2012
4:08 pm

No matter what happens, GO HAWKS!

I think we can win tonight.. if we don’t get sloppy early, and instead come out aggressive, and get easy buckets off transition to the rim, instead of jump shots, I like our chances.

Also, I hope Paul Pierce lands hard on his leg a couple of times. Never wish an Injury on a player..but I’ll take what we get.

If Joe can get hot tonight, and Josh play smart Offense.. oh what could happen.

GO HAWKS

The Truth

May 10th, 2012
4:11 pm

Knowing how to win is an art. It’s rarely a coincidence. These Hawks have yet to learn the difference.

My problem with the Hawks, after all these logged playoff game minutes, they have yet to learn how to win a close game against a formable opponent. They have not mastered the art of extending leads by getting easy buckets or putting together multiple stops to stop the bleeding. They would rather make tough jumpers instead of easy lay-ups. After a great defensive stop, they would squander the opportunity with an untimely TO. Instead of double-downing on defense after an opponent run, they would show us an even uglier side and make bone-headed plays to make a bad situation worse.

These are the same Hawks we are rooting for to win a big game tonight.

Ray

May 10th, 2012
4:11 pm

To rely on someone being injured to win is a cop out which means we weren’t really that good in the first place.

I hope many people realize that.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 10th, 2012
4:20 pm

“I think you have a good point, but I’m certain that Doc Rivers and his staff have been looking to see how Orlando and Chicago defended Horford last year. They may have overlooked Horford for game 5, but they won’t tonight.”

You beat me to it. Doc Rivers and the Celtics are not stupid. They would have been sitting there the last two days coming up with ways to slow down Al and prevent him from being as effective as he was in Game 5.

I don’t know if I will go as far as Astro Joe to say that the bench needs to score 20 points, but someone other than Teague, Joe, Josh, and Al has to step up and contribute on both ends of the floor if the Hawks are going to win this game. Easier said than done in a road game against a team that has the coaching advantage.

mountain_jim

May 10th, 2012
4:20 pm

Well MC’s previous column has hit the media megaphone (as we knew it would):

http://espn.go.com/boston/nba/story/_/id/7914461/atlanta-hawks-co-owner-calls-boston-celtics-kevin-garnett-dirtiest-player

Nothing like giving Garnett something to get motivated about.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 10th, 2012
4:21 pm

Oh yeah, and I don’t buy that Pierce’s MCL sprain is going to make a difference at all. He will come out firing and Joe and Marvin better be ready for him.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 10th, 2012
4:23 pm

“Nothing like giving Garnett something to get motivated about.”

KG is plenty motivated already. Like Charles Barkley says, if you need bulletin board material to get motivated you’re already going to lose.

mountain_jim

May 10th, 2012
4:24 pm

mountain_jim

May 10th, 2012
4:26 pm

“Is calling KG dirty really a shock to anyone? Even KG? Elbows and cheap shots are part of what he does. Intimidation and physicality is part of his game, particularly if you are an undersized guard.

People will talk about this being bulletin board material… no it’s not. First off, nobody has bulletin boards in the locker room anymore. They could put video of his comments on the high def televisions, but there is no corkboard to stick things on.

Second, the Celtics don’t really need this for motivation. Do you really think KG is going to be more fired up for Game 6 because of this? He’s fired up because Horford being back does change the series and Game 6 is really their Game 7 — if Boston has to travel back to Atlanta they are in trouble. What a rich guy in a suit said is not the motivating factor here.

Finally, if you want to get more calls tell your team to attack the rim and stop settling for jump shots.

And by the way Gearon, we all realize what Horford is doing. Him not playing is why I picked the Hawks to fall to the Celtics in the first place. His return changes everything, it just may not be enough to get out of the hole the Hawks dug themselves.”

Melvin

May 10th, 2012
4:31 pm

Forget all the predictions. Just win baby….

Najeh Davenpoop

May 10th, 2012
4:31 pm

Brrrr, what happened to that boy? He was watching kiddie porn and the Feds put a clap into that boy.

Sautee

May 10th, 2012
4:33 pm

“What a rich guy in a suit said is not the motivating factor here.”

Bingo! Co-sign.